How to Streamline Your Small Business

I’m just going to say it. As small business owners, the general population thinks we’re all crazy.

Maybe they’re right? I mean, we do try to handle way too much on our own. Most of the time we’ll take on a dozen different projects (all of them outside our area of expertise) just because we think we can’t afford employees or contractors.

Lots of times we create our own stress, and then — because the stress is so overwhelming — we end up spreading it like a nasty cold among our family and friends.

If things get really bad, we might get so distracted that we flub up a project or screw up an order.

Not good. But what to do?

To avoid burnout, reduce stress and give our minds and bodies a break from daily stressors, we can start simplifying our work processes in a number of different ways.

Create Functional Templates

Please, for the love of God, stop writing out individual orders every time a client calls. Draft and print a form so that all you have to write down are checkmarks or circles. You should also use templates for proposals, standard email notifications, auto-responders, and invoicing.

It can even be helpful to use templates for your own business development activities, such as writing business and marketing plans, instead of having to recreate the wheel every time you make a change in your business.

Combine Like Tasks

If your business requires you to schedule appointments with customers, do what you can to schedule them in back-to-back blocks. This will help you maintain focus and minimize feelings of being tugged in a thousand different directions. The same principal applies to social networking tasks, research tasks, marketing tasks, and financial tasks.

File Diligently

Keep papers from stacking up on your desk by immediately sorting your documents once you’ve touched them. Some useful file folder names include: to-do, scan, file permanently, toss, shred, and recycle. In your to-do file, place the most time-sensitive documents at the top of the pile.

Spend Money on Great Software

Whether you need an accounting program or a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, make good software a priority. Your brain will thank you. Say goodbye to shoeboxes, unorganized business cards and Rolodexes.

Let Something Go

Make a promise to yourself that you will let one thing go. If it’s something important, teach yourself how to delegate and hire someone else to do it. (There are lots of competent people out there just waiting to make your life easier.) If it’s not vital, give yourself permission to drop the ball just this once. You can always revisit your situation in the future.

Make The Best Decision as Quickly as Possible

So much of our productivity is lost when we hem and haw over the small stuff. Give the issue the consideration it deserves, but don’t draw it out. Before you start weighing the pros and cons, give yourself a reasonable deadline for each decision and stick with it.

Streamlining can help us all stay sane, and it can really be a boon for business. I challenge you to evaluate your work routines and look for ways to cut out the fluff and be more productive.

What is one thing you can do to make your routine easier this week?

Image credit: sufinawaz

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Emily Suess
Emily Suess is a full-time technical marketing writer in the software industry and a part-time freelance copywriter. To learn more about marketing your small business online, check out her copywriting blog, Say It With Me.


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  1. Pingback: 7 Productivity-Boosting Ways to Add Extra Time to Your Day | Grasshopper Blog

  2. Hi Emily!

    Fantastic tips and tricks, loved them.

    Personally for me I find batch processing works brilliantly. I set aside blocks of time for responding to e mails, blogging, videoing etc and have a timetable for the week which encompasses all those tasks that need doing.

    I also have a one click rule with e mail, one click then either respond, delete or schedule in the response to come back to if it requires more detail. As a VA I’m pretty ruthless lol!!

    Look forward to more,

  3. Great info! I, too, am a Virtual Assistant, and I “live” for my systems and processes. There is work I do “on my business” and “in my business” and I streamline everything with organization. I start with my Outlook Calendar – I document everything like all my appointments, meetings, client conversations, prospects, leads, projects and tasks, hours worked on each – I even have a To Do This Week list that is entered as a recurring appt. every Monday morning at 8:00 am where I have listed all my commitments and tasks for the week so nothing gets missed or forgotten.

    It also helps when clients request rush assignments, unexpected appointments or phone consults, etc. I can see at a glance where I can fit them into my schedule easily.

    I also love your Templates point. I have a long list of Templates for Forms AND Processes that I regularly keep and update. That alone saves so much time!

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  5. Thanks for some good tips, Emily.

    I have a suggestion for filing to-do items. Try an old fashioned tickler system. Use Swiftfile or Globe-Weis Everyday File Sorter (the one with 1-31 and Jan-Dec). Place either one in a desktop file box (about 6-7 inches deep). The container store has a nice wire mesh one. I also add a few extra manila folders to the box for Waiting on Response, Meetings, Pay, etc. Keep it simple. It’s only for reminders, not reference files. Check your file each day. At the end of the month, pull the papers from the month your entering and distribute them in the daily files. Voila!

    My clients love this because it really helps them control physical clutter and they become known for follow-up and dependability.


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